Turn Old Books Into Unique Light Fixtures With This Creative DIY

Readers naturally tend to surround themselves with books — books on tables, books on shelves, books stacked by cozy chairs, and books propping up lazy cats. If you can't get enough of being surrounded by stories, we have another idea of how to squeeze books into your world: Make lamps out of them! You can hang them from the ceiling, build table lamps from the bottom up, or even do both to create the impression that literary stalactites and stalagmites are forming in your home library. Table and pendant lights are the most common DIY projects, but you can even use them, as @NataliasToolbox does on YouTube, to make knockoffs of those Lumio lights that unfold like a book from Shark Tank Season 6.

The hard decision for this DIY is choosing which books you will sacrifice for the warm glow of a reading light. Surely not your treasured "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes," nor all your novelizations of "The Prisoner" episodes. Maybe you have a stash of books that have seen better days and you'd rather repurpose them than throw them out. Even if you can't bear to part with any from your own collection, fortunately, used bookstores, thrift stores, library sales, and bargain bins are full of cheap options — literary novels that no longer impress visitors, Stephen Hawking books nobody read and fewer people understood, and endless copies of "Catching Fire." There are even places, like Books by the Foot, that sell books especially for DIY projects.

DIY a hanging pendant book lamp

Our instincts say that books are sacred, but there are only so many copies of "The Fault in Our Stars" the world can re-read. It's unavoidable: You'll need to destroy them to turn them into something new. The destruction in question involves drilling a hole through a stack of books. Proven methods include drilling with a segment of sharpened pipe or using Forstner and spade bits. Whichever method you choose, the trick seems to be clamping the book tightly closed while drilling to avoid a ragged hole. Center the hole on each book to keep your lamp balanced.

For a pendant light, the easiest way is to run the down rod or cord of a pendant light kit through your books. Using a kit, like this one from Home Depot for $25.29, also means most of the work of making the lamp safe has been done for you. Rods are often decorative and rely on the lamp's cord to support your books, so pay close attention to the kit's weight limit (4.41 pounds for the Home Depot pendant). Most pendants we found can support 3 to 5 books. 

Assembly details vary by fixture. In general, you'll follow the included instructions except you'll insert the rod or cord through your stack of books before you attach the canopy or socket. For a cohesive look, stack your books in order by size, use similar colors, orient the books' spines in the same direction, and point all the covers either up or down.

DIY a book table lamp

If a book table lamp is more your style, most hardware stores sell table lamp kits for this sort of DIY project. The two main considerations for a book lamp are whether to include a lampshade and if the kit you're considering comes with a long enough lamp rod. A typical kit includes the socket assembly that is the heart of your lamp. It might also have a "harp" on top to which you can attach a lampshade. Your electrical cord runs through the lamp rod from the socket to a plug for your electrical receptacle. The lamp rod is the key bit you should be looking for. Its length will determine how tall your lamp will be, and you'll want to make sure there is room to fit your stack of books.

Assembly is pretty simple. Typically, you'll drill a hole through your books, run your lamp rod through the stack, then thread the electrical cord through the rod. If they are included, screw on the neck piece and then the harp holder. Attach the socket cap, connect the wires to the socket's terminals, then attach the socket to the cap. If your kit includes a harp, attach it and the lampshade of your choosing. This is particularly useful if you've run out of handy ways to repurpose old lampshades around the house. All that's left to do is enjoy your new lighting and maybe get started on that TBR list.